"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The Suburbia Affair" (ep. 3/17)

What we have here, folks, is an out-and-out spy comedy.  The McGuffin, Dr. Rutter's antimatter formula, is serious enough (though its "consequences" are never explained).  And Thrush's use of the special lightbulbs to flush him out is interesting.  But -- two "bachelors" living together, in suburbia, in 1967 . . . ya just know people will be gossiping at the local grocery . . . and then there's that ice cream grenade bit . . .

Peaceful Haven must be fairly close to New York, since Waverly arrives very soon after the bottle of milk explosion; Solo and Illya are still cleaning up.  Yet we see mountains on the horizon in the outdoor scenes.  Still, I like that Illya does not know what the mission is all about, thus giving Waverly and Solo a chance to explain to him and to us.

Victor Borge was a master entertainer.  In this, which IMDb says was his last performance as an actor, his Willoughby/Dr. Rutter comes off as a shy, gentle fellow, the picture of a middle-aged bachelor or widower renting a room in someone's house, which would be good camouflage.  Why does he think hiding in a suburban community would work better than vanishing into one of the world's large cities?  Perhaps he's tried, and been flushed out of, New York or London.  Of course, sending a letter postmarked "Peaceful Haven" is none too smart for someone who's been hiding successfully for a decade.

I also wonder why Betsy, who appears to be a model of mid-1960s propriety, isn't horrified when her lodger tells her he's a trigamist.

Having met a Danish music (and occasional math) teacher while looking for a Danish physicist, Solo and Illya should have known they'd acquired their target.  So should Thrush; checking the subscription lists of physics journals to find Rutter, then inserting someone into the local post office to see who gets such a journal in Peaceful Haven, would have been a snap.  Instead Thrush uses the roundabout method of the doctored lightbulbs.  Then Illya kidnaps real estate hustler Barkley just because Betsy states that the Diamine is for him?  No, it just won't do.

Good points: The way Solo and Illya draw their guns and prepare for another attack after the milk bottle incident; Solo's bugging the pharmacist's phone; his unwillingness to completely swallow that Barkley is their man; Solo and Illya, affected by the lights, snapping at each other in the kitchen (actually quite disturbing to watch!).

Good gags: Illya's baleful look when Barkley is showing them the rental house, and whenever Solo refers to his soufflé; Barkley's "Every house is a palace . . ." followed by the doorknob falling off; Illya in gun and holster, vacuuming and mopping; Barkley, under duress, writes the formula for computing interest on a 30-year mortgage; and the Gladys Kravitz-like neighbor watching Solo break into the Thrush den.

Reta Shaw's Miss Witherspoon is the image of the matronly teacher -- one who just happens to have a switch-knife concealed in her cane.  She's Mother Fear with a more comic edge.

If Solo's cover was as a chemist, what was Illya's supposed to be?

Verdict: Only our guys could carry this off as well as they do.  It's no pitch-perfect comedy, but it's loads of fun to watch the tough, well-trained men from U.N.C.L.E. borrowing eggs from their neighbor and mopping floors.

Memorable Lines:
Solo (to Illya, amid the wreckage of the "milk bottle" explosion):  "I'm glad that we didn't take the cottage cheese."

Illya (to Waverly): "Napoleon and I have an arrangement.  He does the cleaning, I do the cooking."
Waverly: "I had no idea Mr. Solo was so domesticated."
Solo: "Oh, yes. [To Illya]  What are we having for dinner tonight, 'Mother'?"

Illya: "Here's a recipe for a Transylvanian soufflé.  First, we steal two chickens --"
Solo: "I've heard it."

Cop One (to Cop Two, as they watch Solo and Illya on closed-circuit TV battling the Thrushes): "These movie fights always look fake."

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